Cortazar's riotous ruffled oh-my-god-I'll-never-find-my-legs-again Senorita skirt was fine for sitting over provincial toilet paper in Surbiton, but not for a Paris runway.
Emanuel Ungaro made its name in the flash and brash 1980s as a master of an almost-overpowering collision of patterns, colours and textures. His taste, in short, was never subtle. This is the house's very identity, and thus always poses a problem for those trying to stamp their own mark on an indelible signature. The latest designer to attempt is Esteban Cortazar, a mere slip of a boy barely gracing his twenties whose memories of Ungaro's halcyon days could only start circa 1987. In a sense, that is appropriate - that year's stock-market crash, sending the economy into freefall and plunging the world into recession, has more than a hint of déjà vu with our current monetary crises, so perhaps the time is right for that Ungaro pizzazz to pep, pop and jolt us out of the blues? Cortazar's hand, however, is far less sure than Ungaro's, as this collection only served to prove. The runway was a mish-mash of prints and silhouettes, rounded eighties stalwarts of polkadots and puffballs abounding in both instances. Those incessant dots mottled everything, in white on cobalt, orange, black and fuchsia backgrounds often combined into a single splotched mélange. Ruffles, another house signature, frothed from blouses and in tiers on short cocktail dresses, sometimes alternating with pleated and ruched surfaces. Ungaro was never really a master of tailoring, and likewise Cortazar's was somewhat stale, in grey wool gabardine often with odd, yarn-coiled bubbled shoulders. As with so many others, eveningwear took a trip to the short, taut and highly-decorated territory Balmain popularised and indeed has equally worked to its final bone. Cortazar's alternative was Ungaro's eighties staple of a vaguely Spanish dance frock with riotous ruffled oh-my-god-I'll-never-find-my-legs-again Senorita skirt. Fine for sitting over provincial toilet paper in Surbiton, but not for a Paris runway. Ungaro - like Balmain, in fact - is one of those names looking to shock-treatments and a revolving-door policy of designer to get the fusty-to-frumpy makeover. It's a shame to say it of one so young, but maybe it's time for that door to revolve once again.